Vernon committee finds 'interim' space for community store

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VERNON — A committee exploring the prospects for opening a community store has found an "interim" space in the lobby between town offices and the library.

"It's going to take a while to get funding and find a place," Annette Roydon, store committee chairwoman, said Tuesday.

Town Clerk Tim "Johnson" Arsenault posted an article about the Massachusetts town of Leyden on a Vernon page on the social media website Facebook. The small town had done a similar venture, using a basement in a municipal building, and found success in bringing together residents.

Roydon said, "Let's do it!" And Arsenault, who's also on the committee, agreed.

"We're hoping to snag some of the library patrons," Roydon said. "We had signs up."

The community store was one of several items identified by Vernon residents during a community visit process hosted by the Vermont Council on Rural Development. The council's trips were funded through a Windham County Economic Development Program grant. The program is meant to assist the region with creating jobs after the closure of Vermont Yankee. The nuclear plant in Vernon is currently being decommissioned.

A gathering place is needed "big time," according to Roydon, who put out a survey on the matter and received nearly 200 responses. Also, the town currently only has two places to post municipal meeting notices: the town office and post office.

"A lot of times, you don't realize what you're missing until it's gone." Roydon said, referring to Schoolhouse Grocery. "There really isn't much in this town. We have good recreation, a beautiful library and a great school. But there's no place for the rest of us."

The wireless internet available at the library even draws people to the outside parking lot at night when the building's closed. Children's Services Librarian Jean Carr said the library was selected to receive high speed internet via new fiber optic infrastructure in a Vermont Department of Libraries project during 2013.

A meeting in early October is expected to shed some light on how frequently the library lobby might be used for gatherings similar to Tuesday's and what the next steps are in developing the community store.

"We don't know exactly what we're going to do," Roydon said. "There's a whole other group of people looking to a develop a downtown for Vernon."

Combining both committees' missions has been discussed. A community center on Governor Hunt Road is one of the ideas that's popped up.

About a third of the way into the event Tuesday, which lasted three hours, five or six people besides town staff and library employees stopped by. Attendees were chatting about farming, weather and events, Roydon said.

"We got this sort of chorus line here, asking 'Want a coffee? Want a doughnut?'" Roydon said, noting that Assistant Town Clerk Aina Lindquist provided "wicked good blueberry coffee cake" and town Lister Carol Hammond supplied the doughnuts, which Hammond is famous for. "That's who I made the beeline to. Then I plastered the message on Facebook."

Mary Miller brought a scrapbook with photographs from the Miller Farm's centennial celebration in July.

"Where else would we look at Mary's book?" Bronna Zlochiver, a library trustee, said. "We'll start it and see how it goes. Word will get out. This is only the first one."

Zlochiver would know. She sends out a newsletter online about Vernon activities and happenings.

Library Director Kristine Berberian called the cafe space "a perfect place" while pointing out that Vernon has no town center. She thinks people will appreciate the room.

Tables and chairs are set up along with new curtains.

"We're finally getting to use the lobby. We have an ongoing book sale. It's really exciting to see," Berberian said. "I just came in to find it was extremely busy. Everybody had a good time."

When plant owner Entergy announced it would be closing Vermont Yankee in 2013, Berberian said she immediately cut down library expenses by 12 percent. Three budgets since then have been reduced by a total of 27 percent.

"It's a challenge," Berberian said. "But it's a challenge everyone's taking on. Not just this town, but all across the United States."

Call Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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